UPDATED: Merkel makes historical hire for new head football coach, athletic director

For the first time in history, three brothers will be head coaches of Texas high school football programs simultaneously.

The historical move came on Friday morning when Merkel named Fort Worth Paschal offensive coordinator Will Kates its new head football coach and athletic director during its school board meeting.

Kates comes from a coaching family as he joins two brothers that also lead programs. Matt Kates leads LaGrange, a 4A Division II school, while Ged Kates is the head coach at 5A Division I Richland. Will Kates is the youngest of the three.

Kates said had no idea of the historical significance of his hire at the time it was completed. His two brothers both became head coaches in 2010.

The Kates family has a legacy of championship coaches with their grandfather Joe Kerbel being a two-time state champion in three seasons while leading Breckenridge in the 1950s.

Kates, 37, needs to bring stability to the Badgers program as he will be the fourth coach at Merkel in as many seasons. He replaced Hart, who was named Stamford’s new head coach in early March.

After being a finalist for the job in 2020, Kates beat out a field of more than 60 applicants this year.

“I’ve been close on quite a few jobs and even came out here last year when Coach (Britt) Hart got the job,” Kates said. “I think this was meant to be and some things are worth waiting for while God puts you in the right place.”

Kates had the opportunity to address the Merkel school board during the meeting and prior to his hiring being finalized.

“I appreciate the opportunity that you’re giving me,” Kates told them. “I’ve just got to come in, put my stamp on it and build us for success.”

The first time head coach wasted no time in getting going as he spent most of Friday meeting teachers, coaches and all of Merkel’s student-athletes.

He wants competition in all programs and he told the school board he’s going to encourage all student-athletes to compete in as many sports as possible. He said he plans to encourage those in the program to be as involved in as many sports as possible.

While most programs award helmet stickers for on-field play, Kates plans to award them for academic excellence. He told the school board he would award four helmet stickers for As and three stickers for Bs. He wants fans in the stands to be able to easily identify those who excel in the classroom as much as they do on the field.

He even plans to bring what he calls the Purple Knights to Merkel. It’s a program designed to help develop future leaders.

Kates credited Leo Brittain, his coach when he was a senior at Richland, for having the idea of the Purple Knights.

“He had a huge impact on my life as I was undersized and played nose guard,” said Kates. “I gave it everything that I had and Coach Brittain made me feel like I was one of his guys. I think it’s important to put a great product on the field, but it’s got to be more than that.

“We have to build great gentlemen living in this society and hopefully they raise good families.”

Kates and his wife Jennelle have three kids: Abbey (10), Declan (9) and Tatum (5).

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